Regional Aviation Association Of Australia Conference September 2011
Accountability 2.0: Managing and Regulating for Aviation Safety Today
It is always a pleasure to speak at what is one of the Australian aviation industry’s leading national conferences.
Dr Jonathan Aleck, CASA’s Associate Director of Aviation Safety was to give this presentation but was not able to be here today.
Dr Aleck’s address has the intriguing title: Accountability 2.0: Managing and Regulating for Aviation Safety Today. I understand the 2.0 part of the title refers to the new generation of internet based applications and way social media and networking can impact, not just people’s day-to-day lives but also the way government does business with its citizens.
What has this to do with accountability and aviation? Last year the Government responded to a Government 2.0 taskforce which examined the implications of these technologies for the way governments do business.
The Government has clearly endorsed the principles of open government and of government agencies using such new web based applications to become more consultative, participatory and transparent in the way they interact with the community.
These developments have profound implications for CASA as the aviation safety regulator and for the aviation industry we deal with.
Greater transparency in government does mean greater scrutiny and heightened accountability, and we welcome this.
Of course, this is not to say that CASA is not already accountable in a number of ways.
We are responsible to the Minister and to the Parliament. In fact since October 2010 CASA has appeared nine times before various Parliamentary committees, the most intense level of Parliamentary scrutiny in the agency’s history.
These encounters are not always easy but I welcome the opportunity these hearings give me to explain CASA’s role and directions to our elected representatives.
A number of airlines, industry organisations—including the RAAA—and interested individuals also appeared at some of these Parliamentary hearings this year.
In my view the more we build a deeper understanding of aviation, its complexities and its challenges among Parliamentarians, the better informed they are, and this can only be of benefit to Australian aviation.
As Australia’s safety regulatory, CASA is also accountable through its annual reports and corporate plans. We have just released CASA’s corporate plan for the next three years.
CASA’s 2011-2014 corporate plan sets out five values which guide the way CASA operates and how we deal with the wider aviation community. These are:
- a commitment to our mission;
- valuing our people;
- performing our functions to maintain Australia's status as a leading aviation nation;
- understanding our relevance and responsibilities to the wider aviation community;
- and encouraging effective leadership, management and a team approach.
This new plan sets out our long term commitment to make CASA an organisation that:
- provides comprehensive, consistent and effective regulation to enhance aviation safety;
- strives for continuous improvement and good governance; and
- endeavours to form effective and appropriate relationships with the wider aviation community.
As the Chair of the CASA Board Dr Allan Hawke said in his foreword to CASA’s new Corporate Plan:
the use of the term ‘wider aviation community’ is a deliberate measure to ensure that CASA’s engagement and relationships are not only with the aviation industry, but also include other agencies, international bodies and the travelling public.
As I indicated above, one of the core CASA values espoused in our new Corporate Plan is that we understand our relevance and responsibilities to this wider aviation community, that we identify and understand their needs, while at all times exercising the prudent use of CASA’s powers as the aviation safety regulator.
I believe that by thinking about the wider aviation community, particularly the travelling public, when making decisions and taking action, we will better serve Australia and be an even more effective safety regulator.
So one of the measures we have in the new Corporate Plan is, by June 2012, to develop and implement a communications framework that engages the wider aviation community.
As a government agency we are making a clear commitment to interact with this wider community, and this obviously has implications for the way CASA works as an organisation.
Our new Corporate Plan sets down the key strategy of establishing clearly defined lines of accountability, responsibility and authority across the organisation namely to:
- develop protocols and procedures to enhance governance and accountability within the senior management group by June 2012;
- promote the consistent use of a risk management framework by rolling out risk management training to all CASA offices by June 2012;
- ensuring a comprehensive and independent audit program; and
- promoting an accessible, transparent and rigorous complaints handling system, in conjunction with other government agencies.
The challenge I think all government agencies face is to interact, not just more widely, but more openly. As a regulator this openness is a challenge as some aspects of our enforcement and surveillance processes need to remain confidential in the interests both of justice and aviation safety.
We are certainly looking at making the outcomes of CASA’s decision making more widely available but as with other agencies charged with the enforcement of legislation, there is information which needs to remain confidential.
That said the other challenge faced by all government agencies is the unauthorised disclosure of government information.
As you may have seen in the press last week, the Federal Aviation Administration’s audit of Australia’s aviation safety in late 2009 was included in the Wiki leaks release of United States Government cables.
All I will say about those cables is that they revealed only one side of the story. CASA did not necessarily agree with everything put to us by our colleagues in the Federal Aviation Administration, but we were willing, as the cables indicate, to work with them to deal with any perceived shortcomings.
The outcome was what mattered. As I said at the time, the decision by the United States regulator to continue Australia’s category one rating was "a positive endorsement" for Australian aviation safety. "Australia can continue to be very proud of our aviation safety record and the effort we make to maintain that record."
This decision by the FAA to retain Australia’s Category One status reflects in part CASA’s heightened commitment to staff training and development. One of our key strategies to attract and retain the appropriate number of skilled staff is to provide the necessary and ongoing training for CASA specialists to ensure they are up-to-date with technological advancements.
We are also committed to developing a CASA workforce that understands CASA’s obligations and accountability on a whole-of-organisation basis. Developing this clear understanding of our obligations and accountabilities across the whole organisation is one way of mitigating against the unauthorised disclosure of information.
However the best defence against the repercussions of unauthorised disclosure is to have robust, consistent procedures in place that are clear and transparent and which stand up to scrutiny, regardless of the source of that scrutiny.
Such robust procedures are also highly conducive to taking a more open, accessible and transparent approach to decision making and to our business generally.
Another key strategy within CASA’s new corporate plan is to continuously improve the consistent and efficient delivery of operational activities, regulatory services and other support functions.
I expect our processes that are delivering standardisation, consistency and efficiency to CASA’s manuals and procedures will be finalised by December this year.
These values and principles which I have outlined this morning were all applied in a practical and effective way during the recent suspension of Tiger Airways Australia's air operator's certificate.
At each step, I asked everyone involved, including myself, to review our decisions to ensure they were prudent, sound and sensible, and based on a balanced assessment of the relevant facts.
While CASA had no desire or intention to keep Tiger suspended any longer than necessary, we took care to ensure our decisions were measured and stood up to our own and external scrutiny.
The action we took with Tiger could just as easily have been taken with any holder of a civil aviation authorisation, if CASA had reason to believe there was, had been or was likely to be, conduct that constituted a serious and imminent risk to air safety.
That CASA took this action against a large regular public transport operator should not be considered remarkable.
We have a range of measures available to us to achieve required safety outcomes and we will use these tools when necessary to protect safety. No operator or authorisation holder is immune or exempt from this.
This brings me back to the theme of accountability.
The principles of greater public scrutiny and more openness that apply to government agencies also flows on to the organisations and individuals we engage with, and whose aviation-related activities we regulate.
While there are strict rules in place to guard the privacy of individuals and the commercial-in-confidence aspects of businesses, it would be naïve to assume that in the future only government bodies are going to be subject to enhanced accountability and greater public scrutiny.
As we have seen from the recent inquiries by the Senate Rural Affairs and Transport Committee the activities of the aviation industry as a whole attracts a high level of public interest.
It is thus just as important that the aviation industry has in place its own rigorous processes that can stand up to scrutiny.
CASA will assist you with this. Earlier this year I wrote to all Air Operator’s Certificate holders reminding them of the important responsibilities of key personnel who are considered accountable under the civil aviation legislation.
Hopefully I will not have to send such letters too often in the future. One of CASA’s main strategies for the next three years is to encourage a greater acceptance by the aviation industry of its obligations to maintain high standards of aviation safety.
We intend to build CASA’s safety education framework for the delivery of our safety promotional and educational programs to help strengthen the industry’s understanding of their obligations under the air safety legislation.
We are also looking towards establishing a CASA centre for aviation education and training by December 2013. We are also committed to supporting the ongoing adoption of safety management systems within the industry, particularly for regular public transport maintenance organisations.
In this world of greater openness, heightened scrutiny and enhanced accountability, the interaction of CASA as the regulator with the aviation industry is more important than ever. As a regulator CASA is not, and should not, be “in partnership” with those whose activities we regulate. We are an independent regulator and will remain so. What the industry should expect from us is not sympathy but empathy—a genuine understanding of your views, your needs and your expectations. We may not always agree with you, but I guarantee we will listen to you, and that your concerns will be taken into account.
One of our strategies for the next three years is to promote wide and effective consultation and communication with the wider aviation community on aviation safety issues.
We have been strengthening our consultative network. I have established a general aviation task force specifically to consider the views of the general aviation sector in relation to selected issues affecting activities falling broadly within that sector.
Among other things, the task force will be looking at aspects of existing and proposed pilot licensing requirements, the need to hold an air operator's certificate for certain kinds of operations and the obligation for smaller organisations to maintain drug and alcohol management plans.
The task force will be canvassing the views of industry to gather the perspectives of those most directly involved in the activities under review, starting with aerial agricultural operations.
This move is just part of our commitment to ensuring our regulatory processes are effective, appropriate and rationally responsive to genuine safety-related concerns. We intend to deliver the intended safety outcomes to the highest possible level without imposing unnecessary burdens on the aviation industry.
The taskforce’s work will also inform the deliberations of the general aviation forum being planned for 2012.
I would like to thank the RAAA for their input into these consultative processes, particularly the insights they bring to CASA’s Regional Aviation Safety Forum.
Another development which will be of interest is that CASA has initiated a Western Australian Air Traffic Task Force to develop advice for CASA and Airservices Australia on measures to meet current and future aviation demand driven, in particular, by the resources sector.
This group is comprised of staff from CASA, Airservices, Defence and the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.
The Task Force will have regard to air traffic management initiatives in the Aviation White Paper including the wider adoption of enhanced surveillance equipment such as ADS-B and Wide Area Multilateration, other infrastructure and air traffic procedures.
It will also take into consideration equipment mandates proposed by CASA for the coming decade, detailed in our Discussion Paper on future technologies called the Revised Plan for Aircraft Communication, Navigation and Surveillance Equipage in this Decade.
The Task Force will consult widely with stakeholders and provide initial advice on northern Western Australia by the end of the year and final advice, which will include the remainder of the State, by mid-2012.
CASA would be grateful for your inputs to the work of the Western Australian taskforce and to the discussion paper on future technologies.
We are all involved in an industry that is dynamic and challenging. As part of our corporate planning CASA has identified a number of key safety issues over the next three years in particular:
- the challenges presented by the low cost carrier model;
- a global shortage of safety critical personnel in the industry;
- a higher utilisation of airspace due to predicted air traffic growth;
- new technological advances particularly in unmanned aircraft systems;
- issues associated with an ageing aircraft fleet;
- the growth in the numbers of amateur built aircraft; and
- safety oversight across northern Australia as aircraft operations increase.
Despite these issues and all the demands on both CASA and the industry for greater openness and accountability, I am confident that CASA is on the right track and that the vision we have today will accord with what tomorrow’s environment will require.